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Health Sciences

Custom program developed for Health Science leaders

Health Sciences Leadership Series

A program designed to improve the leadership capabilities and communication skills of Health Sciences faculty members.

Visit the Faculty of Health Sciences website to register.

By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer

Health Sciences faculty members spend years training for their roles as educators, researchers and scholars. In many cases, though, there aren'™t the same opportunities to develop specific skills required for their administrative and managerial duties.

The Office of Faculty Development in the Faculty of Health Sciences aims to change that by collaborating with the Human Resources Department on a new management development program. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will launch this September with the first cohort of 30 participants completing six full-day sessions throughout 2014-15.

"This program is modelled after one that myself and a number of other faculty had the opportunity to take several years ago," says Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Undergraduate Education, Faculty of Health Sciences. "In retrospect, the content has proven to be highly relevant and practical. The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development."

Human Resources designed the program specifically for Health Sciences faculty members. The material will cover challenges, situations and conflicts they will encounter in their day-to-day work. Dr. Sanfilippo says participants will gain a deeper understanding of their leadership capabilities, expand their communication skills, enhance their project management skills, and improve their ability to build relationships both within and outside their department.

The Health Sciences Leadership Series will be invaluable to any faculty members charged with administrative responsibilities or curricular development.

Tony Sanfilippo, Associate Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences.

With the Health Sciences Leadership Series, Queen's Human Resources Department continues to expand its leadership development programming. The department has offered a similar program for non-academic managers since 2009.

"œWe are excited to partner with the Faculty of Health Sciences to extend this valuable leadership training to their faculty members," says Al Orth, Associate Vice-Principal, Human Resources. "We are hopeful that the positive outcomes of this series will result in opportunities to work with other faculties on similar programs in the future."

The series has the added benefit of meeting the accreditation criteria for two professional organizations. It is an accredited group learning activity for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. The program also meets the accreditation criteria of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

Online registration is now open with the first session slated to take place Sept. 16. More information is available on the Faculty of Health Sciences website or by contacting Shannon Hill, Learning Development Specialist, Human Resources, at ext. 74175.
 

Supporting the next generation of leading researchers

Eight Queen’s students and researchers have been recognized nationally with Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships.

[Photo collage - clockwise: Fateme Babaha, Mackenzie Collins, Jessica Hallenbeck, Joshua Kofsky, Sandra Smeltzer, Jodi-Mae John, Michael P.A. Murphy, Chloe Halpenny.]
Clockwise: Fateme Babaha, Mackenzie Collins, Jessica Hallenbeck, Joshua Kofsky, Sandra Smeltzer, Jodi-Mae John, Michael P.A. Murphy, Chloe Halpenny.

Canada’s top funding agencies have announced the recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships, two of the most prestigious national awards for doctoral students and postdoctoral fellows. Eight Queen’s students and fellows are among this year’s recipients recognized for their exceptional research achievements and leadership skills.

"The Government of Canada continues to make record investments in science and research because we know it’s key to creating a more equitable future for all," says the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. "This year’s recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships represent the highest calibre of researchers in the health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, and social sciences and humanities. They will bring new voices and new insights to help ensure that cutting-edge discoveries continue to propel Canada as a global leader."

Jointly funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), these awards recognize students who have demonstrated exceptional scholarly achievement and leadership in their research fields. This year, more than 200 students and fellows across Canada will be receiving an investment of $34.7 million in funding over three years to support their top-tier research.

"Queen’s is honoured to host this year’s Vanier and Banting scholars, students whose academic excellence and leadership have been recognized at a national level," says Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost and Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. "We are tremendously proud of these individuals, who embody Queen’s aim to foster a culture of bold knowledge production and reflective new thinking and learning in pursuit of a better future."

Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships

The Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships program provides $140,000 of funding over two years to the very best postdoctoral applicants, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to Canada’s economic, social, and research-based growth. Queen’s recipients include:

Jessica Hallenbeck (Cultural Studies) – Flow: Film as a method for decolonial digital publishing

Michael P.A. Murphy (Political Studies) – Active teaching, assessment, and evaluation in political science

Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships program provides $150,000 of funding over three years to doctoral students who demonstrate leadership skills and a high standard of scholarly achievement in graduate studies in the social sciences and humanities, natural sciences, and/or engineering and health. Queen’s recipients include:

CIHR

Fateme Babaha (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) – Evaluation of a novel native enhancer element from the factor 8 locus to improve adeno-associated virus (AAV) delivered FVIII transgene expression

NSERC

Sandra Smeltzer (Chemical Engineering) – Polymeric materials as a replacement for toxic surfactants in waterborne coating production

Mackenzie Collins (Collaborative Biomedical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering) – Developing a prototype of an eye-gaze based system for emotion identification in children with cerebral palsy

Joshua Kofsky (Chemistry) – Synthesis of complex O-glycans for probing glycan-protein binding interactions

SSHRC

Jodi-Mae John (Geography and Planning) – Exploring Kanyen'keha:ka (Mohawk) values and relationship building with healthcare providers in Kenhte:ke (Tyendinaga)

Chloe Halpenny (Kinesiology and Health Studies) – She works hard for the money: A critical feminist analysis of social assistance in Ontario

For more information on this year’s recipients, visit the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada website.

Igniting a cancer care revolution

Queen’s researcher Chris Booth was inducted as a Fellow in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences.

Allowing cancer patients in Canada and beyond to achieve the best possible outcomes has been a priority in the research and clinical work of medical oncologist Christopher Booth, a professor at Queen's School of Medicine. In October, he was inducted as a Fellow in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS), which brings together health and biomedical scientists and scholars from across Canada to evaluate the country’s most complex health challenges.

Chris Booth
Dr. Chris Booth

“This platform will allow me to engage with policy-makers so that we can design and implement cancer care systems that are more equitable and more patient centred,” says Dr. Booth, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Population Cancer Care.

The quality of cancer care – including access and patient outcome inequities – is fundamental to Dr. Booth’s research. As a member of the Queen’s Global Oncology Program and the Cancer Working Group for the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Essential Medicine List, his research is having a direct impact on the cancer medicines and treatments available to people around the world. Dr. Booth’s work also supports prioritizing treatments that meaningfully improve survival and quality of life.

“One challenge in cancer care is the perception among the public and policy makers that newer is always better. While some of our new medicines provide large benefits for patients, many have very small benefits – and these treatments cost tens of thousands of dollars per month,” he highlights.

On the other hand, several effective medicines have been around for decades and are now generic. But this does not guarantee access: a study by WHO in which Dr. Booth participated suggest even these medicines remain unaffordable for many patients around the world.

Palliative care for cancer patients

In collaboration with colleagues in palliative care, Dr. Booth has been looking at cancer care delivered in the last year of life. In his clinical practice, he has learned from his patients that decisions in this context require careful consideration of treatments’ benefits, side effects, and patients’ quality of life and how they want to spend their time. These observations have informed new research initiatives to learn how oncologists can do a better job of communicating and helping patients make treatment decisions that match their own values and preferences.

“We recently completed a study in which we directly asked patients how they balance survival, treatment benefit, side effects, and quality of life. The results were incredibly insightful and challenge many assumptions held by the oncology community. Most patients would not accept cancer treatment which will not help them live longer or better lives,” explains Dr. Booth.

Dr. Chris Booth with colleagues at Trivandrum Regional Cancer Centre in Kerala.
Dr. Chris Booth with colleagues at Trivandrum Regional Cancer Centre in Kerala.

One of the ways that Dr. Booth is helping improve end-of-life care is through the development of a new community program called the Kingston Kerala Project. The idea for the program stems from his time on sabbatical in South India, where he collaborated with physicians and nurses at Pallium India, an NGO delivering palliative care in a vastly different health system. With fewer resources and higher volumes of patients, Dr. Booth saw his colleagues using more creative ways to deliver care.

The team in Kerala pioneered community-based volunteer delivery of palliative care. In this model, trained volunteers deliver much of the day-to-day visits, providing psychosocial support and assistance with domestic work that patients cannot do on their own – while visiting nurses and doctors attend to patients' medical needs.

“We’re in the process of launching a similar program that will engage trained volunteers in community-based palliative care here in Kingston. This project is directly informed by lessons learned from our partners in Kerala,” says Dr. Booth. “One of the major challenges in the current Canadian health system is the delivery of home care. There are many vulnerable patients living at home who need more support. The Kingston Kerala Project represents an incredibly low-cost innovation that could make a big difference for the quality of life for patients with terminal illness. There will also be tremendous benefits for the engaged community volunteers who can improve the lives of others.”

This program is just one example of Dr. Booth’s efforts to prioritize patients. He plans to utilize his new status with CAHS to continue his push to improve cancer care across Canada and the globe. A Queen’s alumni twice over (BSc’97, Meds 2001), Dr. Booth is honoured “to have the work we are doing be recognized by the Academy. “More importantly,” he says, “it's a signal that work in global cancer care is becoming increasingly valued by the broader medical and scientific community.”

This story was originally published by Queen’s Health Sciences.

Protecting the community from the flu

Queen’s nursing students are organizing drive-through flu shot clinics in advance of a potentially nasty flu season.

  • Queen's nursing students organized two drive through flu shot clinics in South Frontenac and administered more than 900 vaccines.
  • Queen's nursing students organized two drive through flu shot clinics in South Frontenac and administered more than 900 vaccines.
  • Queen's nursing students organized two drive through flu shot clinics in South Frontenac and administered more than 900 vaccines.
  • Queen's nursing students organized two drive through flu shot clinics in South Frontenac and administered more than 900 vaccines.

 


Canada got away with a relatively mild flu season the past two years, but public health experts are warning influenza could be back in full force this winter. With colder weather around the corner, Queen’s nursing students are stepping up to help protect members of the South Frontenac community by running two drive-through flu shot clinics in partnership with Sydenham Medical Clinic. Nursing students administered more than 400 vaccinations at the first clinic in late October and then gave 530 more at the second clinic on Nov. 8 at the South Frontenac Public Services Department.

Two fourth-year nursing students, Nikki Griesman and Talia Ross, organized the clinics through their work for NURS 405: Practicum in Community Health Promotion, taught by Sherri Schmidt-Stutzman, Adjunct Lecturer in the Queen’s School of Nursing. To make the clinics possible, Griesman and Ross enlisted nearly two dozen other nursing students as volunteers to help register patients and give shots.

“Getting the flu shot can be a little more difficult in rural communities like South Frontenac, where getting vaccinated at a local pharmacy isn’t always an option,” says Griesman. “These drive-through clinics are connecting hundreds of community members with the flu shot in a safe and efficient manner.”

Griesman and Ross planned these clinics from the ground up, working with Sydenham Medical Clinic to choose dates, find a location, and promote the events. Wanting to make the clinics as accessible as possible, the students assessed the needs of community members and worked to reduce obstacles to the clinics. They organized the two clinics at different times of day – the first in the late morning and early afternoon, the second in the evening – to accommodate varying schedules. They also produced an infographic that they shared widely in South Frontenac and on social media to educate community members about the vaccine and address common misunderstandings about getting the shot.

“It’s so important for nursing students to help protect the health of the communities around them, and these clinics are giving all of us an opportunity to give back,” says Ross. “They’re also helping us as nursing students learn about the importance of public health and how to provide care in a rural setting rather than in a large hospital.”

Student impact on the community

These clinics make up part of Queen’s social and economic impact on the Kingston community and surrounding area, which has been measured in a study conducted by Deloitte. That study found that Queen’s students, faculty, and staff annually raise more than $1 million to support local causes. It also found that Queen’s students work thousands of volunteer hours for local causes.

Learn more about the community and economic impact of Queen’s students and read the full study on the Queen’s Economic and Community Impact website.  

Building Community Together

This story is part of an ongoing series highlighting how students across Queen’s are building community together through meaningful volunteer and fundraising efforts.

How COVID-19 damages lungs

Red mitochondria in airway cells become coated with green SARS-COV-2 proteins after viral infection: Researchers discovered that the virus that causes COVID-19 damages lungs by attacking mitochondria. (Stephen Archer), Author provided
Red mitochondria in airway cells become coated with green SARS-COV-2 proteins after viral infection: Researchers discovered that the virus that causes COVID-19 damages lungs by attacking mitochondria. (Stephen Archer), Author provided

Viruses and bacteria have a very long history. Because viruses can’t reproduce without a host, they’ve been attacking bacteria for millions of years. Some of those bacteria eventually became mitochondria, synergistically adapting to life within eukaryotic cells (cells that have a nucleus containing chromosomes).

The ConversationUltimately, mitochondria became the powerhouses within all human cells.

Fast-forward to the rise of novel coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2, and the global spread of COVID-19. Approximately five per cent of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 suffer respiratory failure (low blood oxygen) requiring hospitalization. In Canada about 1.1 per cent of infected patients (almost 46,000 people) have died.

This is the story of how a team, assembled during the pandemic, recognized the mechanism by which these viruses were causing lung injury and lowering oxygen levels in patients: It is a throwback to the primitive war between viruses and bacteria — more specifically, between this novel virus and the evolutionary offspring of bacteria, our mitochondria.

SARS-CoV-2 is the third novel coronavirus to cause human outbreaks in the 21st century, following SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2012. We need to better understand how coronaviruses cause lung injury to prepare for the next pandemic.

How COVID-19 affects lungs

People with severe COVID-19 pneumonia often arrive at the hospital with unusually low oxygen levels. They have two unusual features distinct from patients with other types of pneumonia:

  • First, they suffer widespread injury to their lower airway (the alveoli, which is where oxygen is taken up).

  • Second, they shunt blood to unventilated areas of the lung, which is called ventilation-perfusion mismatch. This means blood is going to parts of the lung where it won’t get sufficiently oxygenated.

Together, these abnormalities lower blood oxygen. However, the cause of these abnormalities was unknown. In 2020, our team of 20 researchers at three Canadian universities set about to unravel this mystery. We proposed that SARS-CoV-2 worsened COVID-19 pneumonia by targeting mitochondria in airway epithelial cells (the cells that line the airways) and pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells.

We already knew that mitochondria are not just the powerhouse of the cell, but also its main consumers and sensors of oxygen. Mitochondria control the process of programmed cell death (called apoptosis), and they regulate the distribution of blood flow in the lung by a mechanism called hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction.

This mechanism has an important function. It directs blood away from areas of pneumonia to better ventilated lobes of the lung, which optimizes oxygen-uptake. By damaging the mitochondria in the smooth muscle cells of the pulmonary artery, the virus allows blood flow to continue into areas of pneumonia, which also lowers oxygen levels.

It appeared plausible that SARS-CoV-2 was damaging mitochondria. The results of this damage — an increase in apoptosis in airway epithelial cells, and loss of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction — were making lung injury and hypoxemia (low blood oxygen) worse.

Our discovery, published in Redox Biology, explains how SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 pneumonia, reduces blood oxygen levels.

We show that SARS-CoV-2 kills airway epithelial cells by damaging their mitochondria. This results in fluid accumulation in the lower airways, interfering with oxygen uptake. We also show that SARS-CoV-2 damages mitochondria in the pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells, which inhibits hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction and lowers oxygen levels.

Attacking mitochondria

Coronaviruses damage mitochondria in two ways: by regulating mitochondria-related gene expression, and by direct protein-protein interactions. When SARS-CoV-2 infects a cell, it hijacks the host’s protein synthesis machinery to make new virus copies. However, these viral proteins also target host proteins, causing them to malfunction. We soon learned that many of the host cellular proteins targeted by SARS-CoV-2 were in the mitochondria.

How SARS-CoV-2 targets mitochondria to kill lung cells and prevent oxygen sensing. (drawn by Brooke Ring), Author provided
How SARS-CoV-2 targets mitochondria to kill lung cells and prevent oxygen sensing. (drawn by Brooke Ring), Author provided

Viral proteins fragment the mitochondria, depriving cells of energy and interfering with their oxygen-sensing capability. The viral attack on mitochondria starts within hours of infection, turning on genes that break the mitochondria into pieces (called mitochondrial fission) and make their membranes leaky (an early step in apoptosis called mitochondrial depolarization).

In our experiments, we didn’t need to use a replicating virus to damage the mitochondria — simply introducing single SARS-CoV-2 proteins was enough to cause these adverse effects. This mitochondrial damage also occurred with other coronaviruses that we studied.

We are now developing drugs that may one day counteract COVID-19 by blocking mitochondrial fission and apoptosis, or by preserving hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. Our drug discovery efforts have already enabled us to identify a promising mitochondrial fission inhibitor, called Drpitor1a.

Our team’s infectious diseases expert, Gerald Evans, notes that this discovery also has the potential to help us understand Long COVID. “The predominant features of that condition — fatigue and neurologic dysfunction — could be due to the lingering effects of mitochondrial damage caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection,” he explains.

The ongoing evolutionary battle

This research also has an interesting evolutionary angle. Considering that mitochondria were once bacteria, before being adopted by cells back in the primordial soup, our findings reveal an Alien versus Predator scenario in which viruses are attacking “bacteria.”

Bacteria are regularly attacked by viruses, called bacteriophages, that need a host to replicate in. The bacteria in turn fight back, using an ancient form of immune system called the CRISPR-cas system, that chops up the viruses’ genetic material. Humans have recently exploited this CRISPR-cas system for a Nobel Prize-winning gene editing discovery.

The ongoing competition between bacteria and viruses is a very old one; and recall that our mitochondria were once bacteria. So perhaps it’s not surprising at all that SARS-CoV-2 attacks our mitochondria as part of the COVID-19 syndrome.

Pandemic pivot

The original team members on this project are heart and lung researchers with expertise in mitochondrial biology. In early 2020 we pivoted to apply that in another field — virology — in an effort to make a small contribution to the COVID-19 puzzle.

 

The COVID team: The face of research. The diverse team includes members who came to Canada from India, Iran, England, Brazil, Iraq, China and Taiwan to pursue research here. (Stephen Archer), Author provided
The COVID team: The face of research. The diverse team includes members who came to Canada from India, Iran, England, Brazil, Iraq, China and Taiwan to pursue research here. (Stephen Archer), Author provided

The diverse team we put together also brought expertise in mitochondrial biology, cardiopulmonary physiology, SARS-CoV-2, transcriptomics, synthetic chemistry, molecular imaging and infectious diseases.

Our discovery owes a lot to our virology collaborators. Early in the pandemic, University of Toronto virologist Gary Levy offered us a mouse coronavirus (MHV-1) to work with, which we used to make a model of COVID-19 pneumonia. Che Colpitts, a virologist at Queen’s University, helped us study the mitochondrial injury caused by another human beta coronavirus, HCoV-OC43.

Finally, Arinjay Banerjee and his expert SARS-CoV-2 virology team at Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization (VIDO) in Saskatoon performed key studies of human SARS-CoV-2 in airway epithelial cells. VIDO is one of the few Canadian centres equipped to handle the highly infectious SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Our team’s super-resolution microscopy expert, Jeff Mewburn, notes the specific challenges the team had to contend with.

“Having to follow numerous and extensive COVID-19 protocols, they were still able to exhibit incredible flexibility to retool and refocus our laboratory specifically on the study of coronavirus infection and its effects on cellular/mitochondrial functions, so very relevant to our global situation,” he said.

Our discovery will hopefully be translated into new medicines to counter future pandemics.The Conversation

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Stephen L Archer, Professor, Head of Department of Medicine, Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Director, Thought Leadership and Strategic Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Participate in Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023

Each year, the Queen’s research community comes together to provide Kingstonians with a day of interactive and family-friendly science activities. As one of the longest-running and most successful outreach events in Canada, Science Rendezvous Kingston provides an opportunity for our faculty, students, and staff to give back to the community while exercising their ability to communicate with the public. The Vice-Principal (Research) Portfolio is now calling out for researchers or groups interested in having a booth in Science Rendezvous Kingston 2023. The event will be hosted on May 13 at the Leon’s Centre.

During the annual event, thousands of visitors have first-hand opportunities to engage with scientists: asking questions, doing experiments, exploring artefacts, and using equipment. All activities are free, thus providing quality exhibits to families for whom costly museums, zoos, nature and environmental programs, and other science-rich experiential opportunities are out of reach.

From virtual tours of SNOLAB to birding guides, activity booklets, instructional guides, book recommendations and teaching modules, Science Rendezvous Kingston strives to educate, engage, and inspire learners of all ages to become aware of and trust science as well as the people behind it. After a virtual edition in 2021 and a hybrid one in 2022, the initiative is ready to go back to a full in-person event, while maintaining a website with educational resources available year-round.

Science Rendezvous Kingston is part of Science Odyssey, a national campaign created by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to celebrate Canadian achievements in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics.

Welcoming new and exciting experiences

A limited number of booths are available for 2023. Individuals, labs and departments at Queen’s who would like to be a part of this exciting and impactful public education event are welcome to complete the application form by December 1, 2022 at 4:30 p.m.

Applicants are reminded that the event is family focused. While there is no fee for a booth, it is the responsibility of the booth coordinator to ensure that there are sufficient consumable materials and volunteers for the full day of activities.

Successful applicants will be advised of their place in the program by January 13, 2023.

Any questions, contact Lynda Colgan, Coordinator, Science Rendezvous Kingston and Executive Director, Science Rendezvous at Lynda.Colgan@queensu.ca

How health-care leaders can foster psychologically safer workplaces

Building safer workplaces requires leaders who understand how years of resource constraints, unhealthy work environments, abuse from patients and a pandemic have contributed to overwhelming burnout and job dissatisfaction among workers. (Unsplash/National Cancer Institute)

Every day it seems the Canadian health-care staffing crisis worsens, with emergency room closures, not enough family doctors and long wait times to get into long-term care.

At the core are health-care workers who are physically and mentally burnt out from the unsafe work environments they’ve been asked to work in for years, which were made remarkably worse during COVID-19.

Health-care leaders have a key role to play in developing psychologically safer workplaces to support the well-being of our health-care workers. Building safer workplaces requires leaders who understand how years of resource constraints, unhealthy work environments, abuse from patients, and the pandemic have contributed to the overwhelming burnout and job dissatisfaction evident among workers.

Physically and emotionally unsafe

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian health-care workers were experiencing burnout and depression. The pandemic has worsened already poor working environments, exposing them not only to a life-threatening virus, but mounting physical and verbal abuse, increasing rates of burnout and depression.

It is not surprising, then, that health-care workers are leaving the profession in greater numbers, further exacerbating the working conditions for the remaining health-care workers.

The challenges are not limited to one group of health-care workers, or one type of workplace; personal support workers (PSWs), nurses, physicians, paramedics working in hospitals, long-term care, primary care clinics and emergency services are all reporting higher levels of stress. PSWs working in long-term care report physically and emotionally unsafe work environments, insufficient staff-to-patient ratios and disrespectful work environments.

We know that psychological health and safety in the workplace is directly tied to productivity, retention, absenteeism, workplace conflict and the overall operational success of the workplace. Canadian health-care leaders, managers and supervisors are exceptionally placed to help health-care organizations build work environments where staff feel supported and safe.

Our research team was recently funded by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to examine the facilitators and barriers that health-care organizations face in creating safe work environments. We surveyed and interviewed hundreds of health-care workers from across disciplines, workplaces and provinces. Here’s what they told us:

  • There is much focus placed on health-care workers building resiliency, but without giving them the time and space to do so. Organizations can help by protecting time off for workers.

  • Health-care workers have told us that long-term organizational resources such as wellness champions, ethicists and effective health benefits for all health-care workers (for example, benefits that cover counselling services) would help support their well-being.

  • Appropriate and transparent operational policies and procedures related to clinical care and/or human resources that pervade an entire organization help to develop a fair and safe working climate. Managers can further support their workers by ensuring those policies and procedures are consistently applied and followed.

  • Organizations should seek out and support effective, compassionate and authentic leaders. Developing health-care leaders who are skilled and rise to the job in their stressful environments is critical and should be cultivated and rewarded. Managers have also been through the wringer over the past several years and need to be supported by their organizations.

  • Fewer than 50 per cent of health-care workers in our study reported working in an ethical climate. For example, many health-care workers do not have access to the necessary supports to work through ethical dilemmas. This is a great place for health-care organizations to focus; cultivating an ethical work environment can demonstrate to its employees that they want to protect them from moral distress.

  • Health-care workers have told us that transparency and effective communications are critical and increase trust in their leaders.

The future of our health system is dependent on recruiting and retaining passionate, hardworking and highly skilled health-care workers. Every health-care worker, in ever workplace, across every province needs an organization that values and prioritizes their psychological health and safety. For the full report please visit: MHCC – Exploring Two Psychosocial Factors for Health-Care Workers.The Conversation

_______________________________________________

Angela Coderre-Ball, Assistant Professor (Adjunct), Family Medicine, Queen's University; Colleen Grady, Associate Professor, Family Medicine, Queen's University, and Denis Chênevert, Professor and director of healthcare management hub, HEC Montréal

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

For the Record: Oct. 13, 2022

For the Record provides postings of appointment, committee, grant, award, and other notices set out by collective agreements and university policies and processes. It is the university’s primary vehicle for sharing this information with our community.

Submit For the Record information for posting to Gazette editor Andrew Carroll.

COMMITEES

Headship search committee for the Department of Medicine

Dr. Stephen Archer’s appointment as Head of the Department of Medicine will end on June 30, 2023. In accordance with the Senate document governing the Appointment of Heads of Clinical/Academic Departments that was approved on March 26, 2009, a joint Headship Search Committee for the Department of Medicine has been established. The role of the committee is to provide advice to the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) of Queen’s University and to the Board Chairs of the participating hospitals on the present state and future prospects of the Department, and to make a recommendation on its future leadership. 

The composition of the committee is as follows:

  • Dr. Jane Philpott (co-chair), Dean, Queen’s Health Sciences (QHS)
  • Dr. David Pichora (co-chair), President and Chief Executive Officer, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC)
  • Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick, Chief of Staff & Executive Vice President Medical and Academic Affairs, KHSC
  • Dr. Simon O’Brien, Psychiatrist in Chief and Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee, Providence Care
  • Jason Hann, Executive Vice President, Patient Care and Chief Nursing Executive, KHSC
  • Allison Philpot, Executive Director, Medical Affairs, Patient Flow & Research, Providence Care
  • Anita Ng, Manager, Operations, Department of Medicine, QHS
  • Dr. Ross Walker, Head, Department of Surgery, QHS
  • Dr. Mala Joneja, Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, QHS
  • Dr. Kristen Marosi, Assistant Professor, Department of Medicine, Division of General Internal Medicine, QHS
  • Dr. Sasha Zarnke, PGY 2 Resident, Department of Medicine, QHS
  • Dr. Ryan Peters , PGY 3 Resident, Department of Medicine, QHS
  • Kristy Lodewyks (Secretary), Senior Staffing Officer, QHS

In applying the process, the committee is consulting widely, through correspondence, with members of the Department’s faculty and staff, students, residents, members of the teaching hospitals, and other members of the university and health sciences communities, as appropriate.

We invite you to submit your comments on the present state and future prospects of the Department of Medicine, as well as the names of possible candidates for the headship and the reasons for supporting each nominee. Submissions may be made to the co-chairs via the confidential Microsoft Form, or email to fhsstaffing@queensu.ca.

While submissions will be accepted throughout the search process, it will be advantageous for the committee to have them early on. Responses received will remain confidential and will be shared only with the members of the review committee. Anonymous submissions will not be considered; however, names, letterhead/e-mail header, and/or signature block of those who respond will be masked on the copy that is circulated to committee members.

Headship search committee for the Department of Pediatrics

Dr. Robert Connelly’s appointment as head of the Department of Pediatrics will end on June 30, 2023. In accordance with the Senate document governing the Appointment of Heads of Clinical/Academic Departments that was approved on March 26, 2009, a joint Headship Search Committee for the Department of Pediatrics has been established. The role of the committee is to provide advice to the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) of Queen’s University and to the Board Chairs of the participating hospitals on the present state and future prospects of the department, and to make a recommendation on its future leadership. 

The composition of the committee is as follows:

  • Dr. Diane Lougheed (co-chair), Vice-Dean, Clinical, Queen’s Health Sciences (QHS)
  • Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick (co-chair), Chief of Staff & Executive Vice President Medical and Academic Affairs, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC)
  • Dr. Roumen Milev, Vice-President Medical and Academic Affairs, Providence Care
  • Jason Hann, Executive Vice President, Patient Care and Chief Nursing Executive, KHSC
  • Krista Wells Pearce, Vice-President, Planning & Corporate Support Services, Providence Care
  • Dr. Richard van Wylick, Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, and Vice-Dean, Health Sciences Education QHS
  • Dr. Omar Islam, Assistant Professor and Head, Department of Diagnostic Radiology, QHS
  • Dr. Nadine Morrison-Levy, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, QHS
  • Dr. Daniel Mulder, Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, QHS
  • Dr. Jacob Carson, PGY 3 Resident, Department of Pediatrics, QHS
  • Dr. Meaghan Moreau, PGY 4 Resident, Department of Pediatrics, QHS
  • Kristy Lodewyks (Secretary), Senior Staffing Officer, QHS

In applying the process, the committee is consulting widely, through correspondence, with members of the department’s faculty and staff, students, residents, members of the teaching hospitals, and other members of the university and health sciences communities, as appropriate.

We invite you to submit your comments on the present state and future prospects of the Department of Pediatrics, as well as the names of possible candidates for the headship and the reasons for supporting each nominee. Submissions may be made to the co-chairs via the confidential Microsoft Form, or email to fhsstaffing@queensu.ca.

While submissions will be accepted throughout the search process, it will be advantageous for the committee to have them early on. Responses received will remain confidential and will be shared only with the members of the review committee. Anonymous submissions will not be considered; however, names, letterhead/e-mail header, and/or signature block of those who respond will be masked on the copy that is circulated to committee members.

Headship search committee for the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology

Dr. Graeme Smith’s appointment as head of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (OBGYN) will end on June 30, 2023. In accordance with the Senate document governing the Appointment of Heads of Clinical/Academic Departments that was approved on March 26, 2009, a joint Headship Search Committee for the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology has been established. The role of the committee is to provide advice to the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) of Queen’s University and to the Board Chairs of the participating hospitals on the present state and future prospects of the department, and to make a recommendation on its future leadership.

The composition of the committee is as follows:

  • Dr. Jane Philpott (co-chair), Dean, Queen’s Health Sciences (QHS)
  • Dr. Michael Fitzpatrick (co-chair), Executive Vice President Medical and Academic Affairs, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC)
  • Dr. Roumen Milev, Vice-President Medical and Academic Affairs, Providence Care
  • Jason Hann, Executive Vice President, Patient Care and Chief Nursing Executive, KHSC
  • Heather Ramshaw, Administrative Assistant, Department of OBGYN, QHS
  • Dr. Suzanne Bridge, Head, Department of Critical Care Medicine, QHS
  • Dr. Ashley Waddington, Associate Professor, Department of OBGYN, QHS
  • Dr. Chris Frank, Professor, Department of Medicine, QHS
  • Dr. George Gray, Assistant Professor, Department of OBGYN, QHS
  • Dr. Victoria Januszkiewicz, PGY 3 Resident, Department of OBGYN, QHS
  • Dr. Jessica Blom, PGY 4 Resident, Department of OBGYN, QHS
  • Kristy Lodewyks (Secretary), Senior Staffing Officer, QHS

In applying the process, the Committee is consulting widely, through correspondence, with members of the department’s faculty and staff, students, residents, members of the teaching hospitals, and other members of the university and health sciences communities, as appropriate.

We invite you to submit your comments on the present state and future prospects of the Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, as well as the names of possible candidates for the headship and the reasons for supporting each nominee. Submissions may be made to the co-chairs via the confidential Microsoft Form, or email to fhsstaffing@queensu.ca.

While submissions will be accepted throughout the search process, it will be advantageous for the committee to have them early on. Responses received will remain confidential and will be shared only with the members of the review committee. Anonymous submissions will not be considered; however, names, letterhead/e-mail header, and/or signature block of those who respond will be masked on the copy that is circulated to committee members.

Communicating research beyond the academy

In-person workshops with The Conversation Canada will help Queen’s researchers reach bigger audiences with their expertise.

[graphic image] Queen's University & The Conversation workshops

Researchers are experts in their fields and know how society could make use of their expertise to support critical thinking and daily decision making related to a range of topics – from climate change, health, politics, technology, to the economy, and many other topics. But communicating evidence-based knowledge has its challenges: what platform to use? Which aspects of the research are the most interesting to the public? How to address complex issues in a language everyone can understand?

In two workshops hosted by University Relations, the editorial team of The Conversation Canada will walk researchers through these and other questions. The in-person, hands-on workshops will feature what makes a good article, how to explain your research effectively, and how to work with The Conversation to boost research promotion across mediums.

The workshops will be held on Thursday, Oct. 20 at Mitchell Hall (see sidebar to learn more). Faculty members, post-docs, and graduate students are welcome to participate. In the afternoon session, there will be a focus on how to promote research in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Seats are limited to 40 participants in each session. Refreshments will be provided.

The Conversation and Queen’s

The Conversation, an online news platform created in Australia in 2011, pairs academic experts with experienced journalists to write informed content that can be shared and repurposed by media outlets worldwide. Following its success in Australia, regional editions began appearing worldwide and, in 2017, The Conversation Canada launched with support from some of the country’s top universities, including Queen’s, and Canada’s research funding agencies.

As a founding member of The Conversation Canada, the Queen’s research community has embraced the platform as a unique tool for sharing their research expertise and engaging with the media. Almost 270 Queen’s researchers have published 425 articles that have garnered over 8 million views via The Conversation Canada’s website. Through the platform’s Creative Commons Licensing and newswire access, hundreds of major media outlets, including The National Post, CNN, TIME, The Washington Post, The Weather Network, Today’s Parent, and Scientific American, have republished these pieces.

From cryptocurrencies to how eating rhythms impact our mental health, Queen’s researchers have written on a variety of timely and timeless topics. Some of our most-read articles looked at the physical symptoms caused by pandemic stress, the drama of Haitian children abandoned by UN fathers, the extinction of a bird species, the rising popularity of spirituality without religion, and the negative effects of salting icy roads on aquatic ecosystems.

The Conversation Canada and Queen’s University Workshops

Thursday, Oct. 20

Session 1:
10 to 11:30 a.m. (Click to register.)

Session 2 (STEM research):
2 to 3:30 p.m. (Click to register.)

Rose Innovation Hub Space,
Mitchell Hall

For any questions, contact researchcommunications@queensu.ca

The Conversation is a powerful tool for community engagement, bolstering the efforts of our researchers to share their expertise and build profile,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “We have seen participation from every faculty, and Queen’s continues to show leadership in contributing to the platform among Canadian peers.”

The workshops: How to write for The Conversation

The workshops will be led by Scott White, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Conversation Canada, and Nehal El-Hadi, the Science + Technology Editor of The Conversation Canada. The in-person program will highlight the changing media landscape, the role of The Conversation and researchers as credible news sources, and how to craft the perfect pitch. Participants will develop pitch ideas and can receive real-time editorial feedback.

Caring for those who care

Mental Health Commission of Canada report led by Queen’s researcher calls for psychological support for distressed health care workers.

Health care worker sits in the dark
Staff shortages and insufficient opportunities for self-care are at the core of health care workers’ mental health problems. (Unsplash/ Mulyadi)

A new report released today by the Mental Health Commission of Canada has found that “while health care workers spend their working hours caring for others, many are challenged to find the time and energy for self-care.” The document summarizes the findings of a survey conducted with almost a thousand health care workers across the country between December 2021 and January 2022. The numbers are startling: 40 per cent of those surveyed are burned out, 50 per cent intend to leave the profession, and just 60 per cent are satisfied with the quality of care they provide.

Queen’s researcher Colleen Grady (Centre for Studies in Primary Care - CSPC) was the lead author of the study, which was co-authored by Denis Chênevert (HEC Montréal) and Angela Coderre-Ball (CSPC). In addition to the survey, the researchers conducted interviews with 30 health care workers from multiple disciplines and health care sectors.

“Health care workers are some of the most resilient and dedicated professionals there are, yet most are at the breaking point,” says Dr. Grady, who is an expert in physician leadership development, psychological health and safety in the workplace, and functional health care organizations. For the past few years, she has been investigating psychological stress in the workplace for family physicians. “This study provided a good opportunity to expand beyond one profession and to explore factors that are unique to other health care workers, types of organizations and even differences between provincial approaches.”

The study included nurses (31 per cent), social workers (11 per cent), personal support workers (six per cent), physicians and paramedics (five per cent each) and others. The biggest share of participants work in hospitals (37 per cent), followed by home and community care and long-term care (13 per cent each). Other workplaces represented in the survey include emergency services, primary care clinics, dental offices, mental health clinics, and others.

According to the report, staff shortages and insufficient opportunities for self-care are at the core of health care workers’ mental health problems. While these issues precede COVID-19, the pandemic made them worse. About half of respondents reported suffering from mild to acute moral distress and 60 per cent say they experience work overload. Distress, exhaustion, and burnout can lead to poorer job performance and, ultimately, to an exodus from the health care sector.

Dr. Colleen Grady (left) and Dr. Angela Coderre-Ball.
Dr. Colleen Grady (left) and Dr. Angela Coderre-Ball are authors of the report.

“It was surprising to me how much of the burden for wellbeing is placed on the shoulders of health care workers themselves, without the time or resources to do so,” says Dr. Coderre-Bell. “A far too common story was nurses who dropped to casual positions to have the time to take care of themselves, only to lose their extended health benefits including benefits for counselling.”

Although the pandemic deepened concerns with staff shortage and work overload, the report found it has also increased awareness for and lessened stigma around mental health issues amongst health care workers.

In the search for solutions

Besides surveying health care workers about their struggles and challenges, the study also questioned them about potential solutions.

The in-depth interviews with health care workers and administrators across Canada revealed how much they value peer and leadership support through open and honest conversations. They also spoke to the importance of utilizing available resources and being vocal about their wants. Importantly, they identified a need to challenge a prevailing “self-sacrifice” and/or “workaholic” mindset.

The interviews also provided insights into how health care workers believe mental health support can be improved: developing specific protocols, securing time off, advocating for sustained human and financial resources, and cultivating an ethical work climate, for example.

“Psychological health and safety must be a priority pursued by organizations through advocacy, strategy, and action," says Dr. Grady. "Every health care worker in Canada deserves to be employed in an organization that prioritizes psychological health and safety."

To read the full report, access the website.

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